The Psykonomist forwarded an extraordinary essay on the topic of popular appetite for Zombie Apocalypse, considered as an expressive channel for loosely ‘anarchist’ hostility to the state. Given the failure of Right-pole democratic initiatives to roll back — or even check — relentless government concentration and expansion, catastrophic ‘solutions’ emerge as the sole alternative:
Films and television shows have allowed Americans to imagine what life would be like without all the institutions they had been told they need, but which they now suspect may be thwarting their self-fulfillment. We are dealing with a wide variety of fantasies here, mainly in the horror or science fiction genres, but the pattern is quite consistent and striking, cutting across generic distinctions. In the television show Revolution, for example, some mysterious event causes all electrical devices around the world to cease functioning. The result is catastrophic and involves a huge loss of life, as airborne planes crash to earth, for example. All social institutions dissolve, and people are forced to rely only on their personal survival skills. Governments around the world collapse, and the United States divides up into a number of smaller political units. This development runs contrary to everything we have been taught to believe about “one nation, indivisible.” Yet it is characteristic of almost all these shows that the federal government is among the first casualties of the apocalyptic event, and—strange as it may at first sound—there is a strong element of wish fulfillment in this event. The thrust of these end-of-the-world scenarios is precisely for government to grow smaller or to disappear entirely. These shows seem to reflect a sense that government has grown too big and too remote from the concerns of ordinary citizens and unresponsive to their needs and demands. If Congress and the President are unable to shrink the size of government, perhaps a plague or cosmic catastrophe can do some real budget cutting for a change.
The essay captures a critical dimension of disintegration within the ‘reactionary camp’, dividing those who seek to co-opt the Cathedral-Leviathan managerial elite to a more realistic (or tradition-tolerant) political philosophy, and those who — far more numerously and inarticulately — are invested in the hard death of the regime. The latter (immoderate) position, it appears, is genuinely and even shockingly popular. Swathes of mass entertainment production are able to thrive on the basis of its seductive nightmares. (Is pulp catastrophism the economic base that will support neoreactionary contagion?)
Reading the Cantor essay alongside Jim Donald’s epochal Natural Law and Natural Rights essay is highly suggestive. A common thread running through both is the centrality of vigilantism to the popular Right. The purpose of Natural Law, Donald argues, is not to demand justice from a higher authority, but to neutralize the interference of any such authority in the pursuit of justice by decentralized agencies. Natural Law protects the right to legitimate vengeance, ensuring that individuals are not inhibited in their exercise of self-protection. When the State is seen to operate primarily as a social force defending criminals against retaliation, it loses the instinctive solidarity of the citizenry, and dark dreams of Zombie Apocalypse begin to coalesce.
Given the survivalist ethic in all these end-of-the-world shows, they are probably not popular with gun control advocates. One of the most striking motifs they have in common—evident in Revolution, Falling Skies, The Walking Dead, and many other such shows—is the loving care with which they depict an astonishing array of weaponry. The Walking Dead features an Amazon warrior, who is adept with a samurai sword, as well as a southern redneck, who specializes in a cross-bow. The dwindling supply of ammunition puts a premium on weapons that do not require bullets. That is not to say, however, that The Walking Dead has no place for modern firearms and indeed the very latest in automatic weapons. Both the heroes and the villains in the series—difficult to tell apart in this respect—are as well-armed as the typical municipal SWAT team in contemporary America.
Among the attractions of Zombie Apocalypse, in this construction, is the disappearance of the State as an inhibitory factor in the social economy of retaliation. The Zombie-plagued world is a free-fire zone, in which no authorities any longer stand between the armed remnant and the milling hordes of decivilization. Whatever the odds of the fight to come, the right to vigilante and counter-revolutionary violence has been unambiguously restored, and this is deeply appreciated — by opaque popular impulse — as a return to natural order. The State had taken sides against Natural Law, so that its catastrophic excision from the social field is greeted with relief, even if the cost of this disappearance is a world reduced to ashes, predominantly populated by the cannibalistic undead.
There’s a ferocity to this that will be worked. It’s best to be prepared.